What You Expect Is What You Get (Rosenthal & Jacobson)

Title of Research: What You Expect is What You Get
Date of Study: 1966
Name of Researcher: Rosenthal, R & Jacobson L
Theoretical Propositions: When an elementary school teacher is given information such as IQ scores, it creates expectations about that student, leading to unnoticeable behaviors that either encourage or facilitate the performance of the student.
Oak School staff & students
IQ test

students in Oak Elementary

Students and teachers were told they were taking the Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition, in order to create an expectancy, something vital for this experiment. All 18 teachers were given a list of students who made the top 20% on the test, however, the list was purely random, just intended to create an expectancy among teachers. At the end of the year, students were once again given the same test and the differences in results were recorded.
Results: Children for whom the teachers had higher expectations showed greater improvement than did the control students. Interestingly, this pattern was shown mainly among 1st and 2nd grade students and extremely rare among older ones. Results from experiment settings were also reflected in the natural environment.
Discussion / Significance of Findings: Rosenthal hypothesized correctly: teachers' expectations brought according results. This "self-fulfilling prophecy" was thought not to have been observed among older students because younger children are more easily influenced and "transformed." Even though this is intangible evidence, teachers may have believed it to be true and hence this might have influenced their attitude toward students. Teachers might have also not have had a chance to establish a clear opinion on a younger student.

The real influence of this study was in what it proved about the long-term effects. In a related study, when teachers were initially informed that certain students were "bright", they treated those students with subtle favoritism. With more interaction and interest, the teachers' behaviors could have had an effect on more than just IQ scores. The study shed light on the whole idea and controversy of IQ tests, including arguments that the tests are racially/culturally biased.

Criticism: Stanford University's Richard Snow has been skeptical about Rosenthal's findings and the debate continues.
Recent Applications: This research suggested a number of things on the educational process. Rosenthal's theory of interpersonal expectancies has also shown connections with fields other than education. Further research found that teachers were culturally, racially, and gender biased in classifying and treating their students. Racial bias in rap music lyrics were also considered, in that bias in rap music brings different reactions than if the bias was to be included in a song by a non-Black artist.


What You Expect Is What You Get (Rosenthal & Jacobson) - The NeuronWhat You Expect Is What You Get (Rosenthal & Jacobson) - The Neuron
Additional Sites (from The Neuron and external resources):
Posted by: Tom & Evelyn

More pages